Is THAT a disease in my beehive?

Albert Einstein once said “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”

No more men? There are times when women might wish for this when we’re picking up stinky socks, but I think we would miss them. The men. Not the socks.

Is that a disease in my hive?

What are those mysterious black cells?

As a new beekeeper I worry about the diseasesthat can infect a hive to a point that the only thing you can do is burn it. Every time I open my hive to do an inspection I take in a deep sniff. I love the smell of beeswax. It reminds me of Christmas when I make beeswax candles. Now if this sweet smell turns into that stench of dirty socks I’m going to panic. That is because that odour is a sign of two deadly bee diseases, American and European Foul Brood. Apart from the nasty varroa mite, those little parasites that are destroying whole colonies across North America, American Foul Brood is the beekeepers’ worse nightmare.

Last week I saw some dark spots in some of the wax combs in my upper brood box (pictured left). This was something I haven’t seen before and caused me to lose sleep.  I thought that I had my first case of American Foul Brood. In a beekeeping class we took this spring with the provincial apiculture department, we had to identify AFB by sticking a toothpick into an infected cell. It was gross. The photo at right is from Henrik Hansen, the author of Honey Bee Brood Diseases. As you can see, the two photos are vastly different. But as newbies, Jeff and I just couldn’t be sure I didn’t have an early case of AFB.

American Foulbrood

American Foulbrood

We took some pictures of our mystery black spots and sent them to  Jaquie Bunse, the Fraser Valley regional apiary inspector and our instructor. She who wrote back that these were just cells of  pollen with nectar on top. Nothing to worry about. And then she remarked you still have your bees? They haven’t swarmed yet?

Swarmed? Oh great. Something else to keep me up at night.

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